August 2015 Usage Report & More Lessons Learned

We have officially been open a month! In the same spirit of transparency that drove us to publish all of our policies, forms and other print materials, we would like to share the usage statistics from our first month open with our fans, users and fellow libraries. While we had made a few predictions about the popularity of equipment, some things blew us away in how much they were used.

August 2015 Equipment Usage

Equipment Hours of Usage
3D Printers (All 3) 132 hours, 21 minutes
Laptops (All 6) 40 hours, 24 minutes
Embroidery Machine 21 hours, 32 minutes
Long Arm Quilting Machine 15 hours, 42 minutes
Iron 6 hours, 17 minutes
Keyboard Piano 2 hours, 20 minutes
Sewing Machines 1 hour, 45 minutes
iMacs 1 hour, 38 minutes
Total Monthly Usage: 261 hours, 21 minutes
Not all equipment in the space is listed

Kits for In-House Use

Kit Name Hours of Usage
LEGO Mindstorms 10 hours, 29 minutes
Little Bits 8 hours, 54 minutes
Sparki Robot 8 hours, 50 minutes
MaKey MaKey 2 hours
Arduino Starter Kit 40 minutes
Kits Total Usage: 30 hours, 53 minutes

Door Count (Visitors): 1,368
Staff Interactions (Directly Helping Patrons or Answering Questions): 498

# of Patrons Registered for Classes: 161
# of Patrons that Attended Classes: 138

Things We’ve Learned Since Opening the Doors

In the past, we’ve shared a few things that we’ve learned about opening a library makerspace and today we have a few more things we think you should know. Here’s a few things we would like to share that we think can be helpful to anyone planning their own space:

  1. Do as much as you can ahead of time. While we did plan most details, we never got the chance to run through the daily operating processes of the space. Although nothing disastrous happened, the first few weeks were a little rougher than we expected. We hadn’t had the chance to barcode all of our equipment and kits, so usage for the first week or so is pretty low because we hadn’t yet implemented our tracking system. We also weren’t able to get our online orientation in place (and have since scrapped the idea), so it was hard for staff to know how to get people started in the space because all of our plans had always included that system as a starting point. This point can also apply to opening your space for daily use. Opening staff now arrive at least 10 minutes early to grab their tablet and log in to our ILS, place ‘Reserved’ signs on equipment and clean up anything that may have been left out from the day before. Doing this before we have people coming in and out of the space really helps us get prepared to serve our patrons.
  2. Communicate quickly, effectively and as often as possible. Although before opening we had been great at communicating with our team, once the doors opened it seemed like days flew by. When we opened, we had four shifts of staff members operating the space each day. Lots of information passed hands during the first week and most of it was done through sticky notes that not everyone would see. So that staff members on a shift could communicate effectively, we created an online ‘End of Shift Report’ that each staff member fills out at the end of their shift that is emailed to the whole team once submitted. This report includes space for notes on maintenance and technical issues, policy and procedure modifications or suggestions and positive comments from staff or patrons. The report is also where closing staff report statistics for the day; something else that was lost during our first couple of weeks.
  3. Be flexible. Above it was mentioned that we scrapped a system that we had already put many hours into because it was realized that it made the process for new users complicated and lengthy. Although it was hard to just trash those hours of hard work, we knew that we needed to be flexible enough to accommodate our users and figure out what was actually going to work. We have also changed how we schedule staff, how we give tours to those that just walk-in wanting info and our process for checking people in for a class. That seems like a lot to change in just one month, but we realized that the way we had imagined things working wasn’t how they would work best in reality.
  4. Track everything. Sure, we may not need to know how many hours an iron was used in the space right now, but in the future we might want that information. Put systems in place to track every piece of information about the space so that when the time comes you can know what is being used the most and what to spend your money on.
  5. Automate as much as possible. Equipment reservations, class registration and even the email you may have received directing you to this blog post are all a part of automated systems we have in place. We currently have 5 people that help staff the space and 8 people on our team total. Because each staff member’s time is limited (3 of our 8 staff are part-time), there is not a lot of time for us to mess around with insignificant things like taking reservations or class registrations over the phone or composing an email each time we publish a blog. Click here if you would like to know more about the software and online services we use.
  6. Give yourself permission to take your time. Leading up to opening day there seemed to be a lot of pressure to get everything “DONE” before the public came into the space. Once the doors opened, and we inevitably had things not “DONE”, a funny thing happened–nobody cared, or noticed, but us. Most people who came into the space were blown away by what was “DONE” that they gave us a little extra time to get everything to our version of “DONE”. Of course, this relies on the fact that you have the basics in place, but it’s always good to remember that there is still room for improvement and there is always more to do.
  7. Email lists are a powerful thing. Some of you may think that it is a waste of time, effort and money to build an email list or you just don’t know why you need it. We want to let you know that our email list is the most important thing that we have going for us right now. With over 400 people on our list, it is no problem for us to fill classes at the last minute, share important information with our users or find volunteers; things that may take quite a bit of effort if you don’t have an email list. We love using MailChimp and especially love that it can integrate with so many of the automated systems we told you about above to build our email list without even trying.

We are glad to be beginning a new month serving our community with the awesome resources in our space. We anticipate even more usage in September, most of our classes are almost full, and we hope that we will see you in the space soon. As always, feel free to leave comments on this post below.

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